Sunday, November 2, 2014

What It Is - week ending 2 November [2014]

With apologies to Dave the Thune.

Every day.  1000 words.  That's the goal.

Got sidetracked a bit this week - not from my writing, but from my current "frontburner" project.  I got a bit over 8000 words down this week, most of that focused on a call for submissions to a new horror anthology coming from IDW early next year.  They're only looking for 6-7 page stories, but between the notes/ideas process, the outlining, and the pitch - which started as a 400 word paragraph, was dropped to 260 words with one revision, and then under 200 with a third - along with some process posts I decided to write about this project, it took up most of my week's writing.  I'll send off the pitch today or tomorrow and hope for the best.  Then with the new month, I plan on returning to the novel and finishing up part 1 soon.

One of the creepiest comics I've read in a while is "Daddy" by Josh Simmons & James Romberger, published by Chuck Forsman's Oily Comics.  It's a 12-page mini-comic and it's so good.  A couple, beset by the recession, is out for their first "date" in a long time, having allowed their oldest child to babysit for the first time.  As they drive home, the father tries to reassure his wife that all went well at home, but this anxiety persists when the children don't answer the phone.  A few minor things are out of place when they return, but the kids are in bed and all seems well.  Then a man knocks on the door, seeking help because he was in a car accident, and things get creepy again.  And, as you might guess, all does not end well.

The plot for this mini-comic is fairly standard.  But it works terrifically.  Simmons and Romberger play off scenarios that are wholly relatable - the couple in tough financial times, the desire to give children more responsibility and the anxiety concomitant with that, and the underlying fear (that never goes away) of something terrible happening to your children - and it draws you in.  These are people you know, or these people are you.  And the art conveys the dread within this narrative - tiny, dark, claustrophobic panels that pull you in with the characters.  The use of a red wash on the scenes taking place outside also enhance the dread, a bloody representation of the horror awaiting this family.  It's simple in concept but elegant in the execution.  And it holds up with multiple readings.  Read this.

I started Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl this week.  150 pages in and it's got me hooked.  Flynn has developed fleshed out, complicated, messy characters with Nick and Amy and really gets into their psyches with her approach to the story.  Switching back and forth between the present day thoughts of Nick and the previous years' diary entries of Amy works well, especially when we are offered a glimpse at the same scenario from these two divergent perspectives.  One thing I did find annoying is the insistence that almost every "Nick portion" end with an obtuse confession from him, pointing to Nick being the bad guy.  The first time, it came as an exhilarating shock - the bulk of the chapter relating their near-idyllic marriage, at least within the scenario offered by Nick, only to have it punctuated with bile rising in his throat as he went to greet his wife - and it worked very well, an exclamation point that twisted away from what we'd just read.  And if that had been the one instance, at least for the bulk of these first 150 pages, where we saw Nick in a vulgar light, it would have hovered over the rest of the narrative like the sword of Damocles, the audience waiting for the hammer to fall (if I can mix and re-mix metaphorical cliches).  But with almost each succeeding part from Nick's POV, we are treated to more unexplained confessions, and it begins to feel like the unending subplots from a Chris Claremont X-Men book.  Not that it's turned me off, but I think less, in this case, might have been more.  Regardless, I really want to try and incorporate her facility with revealing character into my own writing.  Her deftness with the details and the genuineness of it all is laudable.

Also reading, Difficult Men, a book analyzing the sea-change in dramatic television since the late 90s.  Many of the shows that make up the spine of this book - the Sopranos, Mad Men, Oz, Deadwood, Breaking Bad, etc. - are ones I have enjoyed immensely.  Looking forward to delving into the backstory for all of this.  Already learned that David Chase loathes David Milch and Aaron Sorkin - seems he doesn't care for the eloquence of their characters, to put it rather simplistically - and that he's basically a depressed curmudgeon who has a very dark outlook on life and the world, which is his strength as a writer.  He prefers not to tie narratives off, but to leave one feeling as if something were missing, revealing the worst in us - like "real life" you might say.  It's fascinating so far, and I look forward to the rest of the journey.

The Flash

I don't do much appointment television anymore (to be honest, I don't do any unless it's a Kyle Killen-developed show, but even those don't last long and necessitate a week's embargo before I can watch online), but the new Flash series from CW is pretty great.

cards on the table:  the Flash is my favorite superhero, bar none (that's a series of posts for another time).  And I own the 90s version on DVD.  So, checking this out was a no-brainer.

The best thing about this series is how fun it is, and, tracking off from that, how giddy this Barry Allen is about his newfound powers.  It's aspirational in a way that many superhero comics today (and much of the movies/tv shows) are not.  I've only watched the first two episodes so far, but there's an excitement around the adventures (and they feel adventurous as opposed to darkly dramatic) that's engaging and fun.  And I like the modifications they've made to the mythos - from Iris's relationship to Barry to the darkness in his past, which has not weighted him down as it seems intended to for so many other heroes.  I'm enjoying it.  This is what superheroes are all about.


World Series goes to the Giants.  They earned it.  But man, the Royals impressed the heck out of me.  Can't brush them off anymore.

Halloween has passed, and with it All Hallow's Read.  Here's a free horror story, for those who didn't catch it before.

And now, it's time for the shovels to return.  Snow should be flying soon (if not today) up here in Maine, and with that realization, summer is finally over.

See you next week,

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